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You’ll notice I’ve popped some tomato paste in the chilli oil, which may seem wild at first glance, but once you try it with this decidedly inauthentic umami-rich addition, you won’t go back. It’s perfect over rice, eggs, dips, dumplings… really any time you want a warm, fragrant chilli hit, hit it up! For best effect, make the chilli oil at least the night before.
Accompanies Five-spice tempura (page 213) and pairs with Wet-fry mushroom noodles (page 113).
2 cups (500 ml) grapeseed oil
1 thumb-sized knob of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
20 g (3/4 oz) sichuan peppercorns
20 g (3/4 oz) chilli flakes
100 g (31/2 oz) crispy fried shallots
1 tablespoon grated fresh garlic
1–2 spring onions (scallions), finely chopped
1–2 star anise
1 teaspoon Chinese five-spice
1/4 cup (60 ml) sesame oil
2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted
1 tablespoon tomato paste (concentrated purée)
1–2 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 tablespoon black vinegar or rice wine vinegar
Start by making the chilli oil. In a small saucepan, bring the oil and grated ginger to 170°C (325°F). This takes about 10 minutes over low heat; the oil will be shimmering but not smoking.
In a large heatproof bowl, mix together the peppercorns, chilli flakes, fried shallots, garlic, spring onion, star anise, five-spice, sesame oil, sesame seeds and tomato paste. Set a fine-meshed sieve over the top. Being careful of spitting, pour the hot oil over the lot. Add the soy sauce and vinegar to taste, then leave to infuse. Once cool, pull out the star anise. The longer the oil stands, the more intense the heat and flavour will be. Store in the fridge, in a clean sealed jar.